Niacin, a member of the B vitamin family, interacts with cholesterol by causing high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels to increase, leading to a drop in low density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL is often referred to as the “good” cholesterol and LDL is called the “bad” cholesterol, and taking niacin can improve someone's cholesterol levels. The interaction between niacin and cholesterol has been studied in a number of locations around the world, and findings support the use of niacin for management of cholesterol levels.
When HDL levels rise, it captures LDL for expression from the body, leading to a drop in bad cholesterol levels and promoting cardiovascular health. Buildups of cholesterol can put people at risk of myocardial infarctions and other problems associated with blocked blood vessels. People studying niacin and cholesterol also note that the levels of triglycerides, another kind of harmful fat, are also lower in people who take niacin.
Over-the-counter niacin supplements are available, and patients can also access prescription niacin. For people taking this vitamin to address a cholesterol problem, it is advisable to use prescription medications. Dietary supplements are less carefully regulated and may have varying amounts of niacin, in addition to impurities that could make them unsafe to take. Adverse reactions to niacin are most commonly linked with dietary supplements, not prescription niacin designed for medical treatment.
Niacin comes in timed release format, as well as immediate-acting forms. A doctor can decide on the most appropriate dosage and timing for a patient, and write a prescription accordingly. Pharmacies usually carry prescription niacin and can order it in the event they do not, with delivery usually occurring within a few days. For people interested in the niacin and cholesterol connection, it is important to be aware that this medication alone will not bring cholesterol down to safe levels. Dietary adjustments are also needed, and it may be necessary to take other medications designed to push cholesterol levels to a safer amount.
Ongoing studies on the connection between niacin and cholesterol are carried out on a regular basis to learn more about how this vitamin works in the body. Medical journals can provide a resource for reading more about the latest findings on niacin and cholesterol, and it's also possible to subscribe to a clipping service to have relevant news delivered directly to an email inbox. Mail clippings services, though less common than they once were, are still available for people who prefer them.